Armitage devastating, Servetus devastated: me + richard after seeing The Crucible

Screen shot 2014-09-01 at 7.37.59 PMRichard Armitage as John Proctor in The Crucible. Source: Geraint Lewis Collection

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Although one reads it often, I do not share the opinion that Richard Armitage is even more handsome in person than in his pictures. His pictures offer a good likeness, I find. Armitage does have something that his pictures lack, however, though it defies explanation. Charisma? Mana?

A quality that draws the attention — more than his appearance or his talent. A quality that means that when he chooses, it becomes impossible to ignore him, even when he’s silent or glowering in a corner or apparently asleep. A capacity to perform effectively and convincingly and to wipe viewers’ awareness that we’re seeing a play from our minds. Armitage’s energy remakes the tiny round stage into an own little world into which we are granted grateful immersion for a time. While he inhabits Proctor, it is impossible to believe that Armitage is anyone else. He’s the master of a presence so seamless, so complete, that it’s breathtaking.

To me, this was the most important revelation of my visits to performances of The Crucible, a truth I’d intuited from the screen but not seen demonstrated in person — that Armitage live is an unparalleled master of flow, a man in control of a level of concentration so palpable that it draws everything in its sphere ineluctably to itself, casting or releasing that attention outwards again only as he wills. On stage, his voice is the same familiar voice I’ve heard so many times before in reproduction, but with an undercurrent of energy that captures our attention and pulls all ears toward him. As he plays on my heart, he reminds me most of a master conductor with hundreds of details to manage but one huge symphony to drive onward to its conclusion.

In the presence of hundreds, Armitage’s energy both indicates complete ignorance of the audience’s presence, a true unawareness of self that allows him to go all out for every speech, every lunge, every motion, every emotion — but also a parallel knowledge and manipulation of just what will draw the viewer to him. As Proctor kisses his wife, even as the character loses himself fully in the moment and the kiss, the actor is doing all the things that will make us believe in the character. He lifts her high and kisses her hungrily and says with his body, look at me in my unknowing for I know you cannot help it. Let me show myself to you even as you believe I cannot see you. I will take the dynamic of your stares and filter it through the conduit of my body and channel it back you, so that my stance, my words, my actions become even more powerful. The effect — no matter what’s happening on stage — is simultaneously gleeful and disturbing in its magnetism. Watching him, I still could not look away, even tearing my eyes away on purpose gradually became impossible.

Armitage’s presence thus simultaneously soothes and terrorizes. He builds it mostly with body and spirit and less so with words. He makes the subconscious clear and the clear subconscious, developing Proctor’s presence in the silence of his flashing eyes, in the threat behind his stares, through the abandon with which he chases another character around a table, throwing a chair in his wake and casting his feet where they fall, in the caresses and pauses of his hands, in the stretching and contraction of his fists, in the architecture of his shoulders over his hips, in the crumpling of his thorax when Proctor sobs.

When I cried for Proctor’s sacrifice, when I applauded Armitage — then with open mouth and the slowest claps, for I was always gasping, catching the breath he’d torn from me and made his own, shouted to the top of the theater. I could not tell any more whether the noises I made in response were sobs or gasps.

~ by Servetus on September 2, 2014.

33 Responses to “Armitage devastating, Servetus devastated: me + richard after seeing The Crucible”

  1. Amazing. His performance and your description of it. Brava, Serv and bravo, Richard.
    Magnetism. The man has magnetism, charisma, “it” . . .

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  2. I still wonder how I can possibly keep that spectator feeling in mind, conserve it forever… It was such an extraordinary experience, trying to soak up every gesture and movement on that stage was my fulltime ambition ;-). Your remarks will help – thank you! 🙂

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  3. Commenting as one who described Richard as even better looking in the flesh after seeing him at the Popcorn Taxi Q&A, perhaps it was that charisma you talk about that had me feeling that way. I certainly couldn’t take my eyes off him whatever it was, and I can only imagine how seeing him perform would affect me. I guess I will never know, but at least with your wonderful writing I can get a glimpse into that experience. I’m in tears here – thank you for this (and your other Crucible reflections so far)

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    • well, I could be wrong. He might be more handsome in person. I don’t know how we’d settle that question — but the experience of seeing him live was incomparable. I wish he could do a world tour.

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  4. Thank you for your wonderful description of RA and your feelings! You can call it a charisma or whatever but for me it’s a charm. He cast a spell on me and I’ve been spellbound since I first saw him in N&S (hearing his voice is enough to make me thrill). And knowing myself I believe I would sob at end of the performance 😉

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    • there’s something different in person. I don’t know how to put it, really. Obviously I’ve been transfixed by his work on screen but he has a very unique energy.

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  5. A question. Why producers and directors have been so blind and deaf all these years?

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  6. sigh

    No, no, no, I’m not jealous. Green is my natural colour. g
    I so wish I could see The Crucible. :-/

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  7. Beautiful!

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  8. dearest Servetus your last paragraph expresses exactly how I was at the end of the play ,through your wonderful description I am re living the play.
    How does Richard do it ? This man has more than talent ,…..on another note and highjacking your page , and im not sorry ! sorry.. it scares me that the crucible has not been filmed and that Richards performance will be lost forever and ladies , girls , we have to make our own dvd , so calling all aspiring film makers …please don’t let this pass ,lets put together all photos and clips into a dvd that we can share /buy ……just cant get my head round the fact they are willing to let this disappear …..ok , sorry Serv ….had to say something ….

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    • that would be a huge rights violation — a lot of what we are doing is already illegal. So enjoy what you can find, and save it for yourself!

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  9. Ich freue mich sehr für Dich, dass Du es doch noch geschafft und möglich gemacht hast TheCrucible zu sehen. Ich kenne niemanden der so engagiert ist, wenn es um RA geht und gerade Du solltest nicht die Möglichkeit haben das Stück zusehen? Das war für mich kaum fassbar und so finde ich es unglaublich toll, dass Du dieses Erlebnis doch noch mit uns anderen begeisterten Fans teilen konntest!!!! Und natürlich diese wunderbaren Erlebnisse noch einmal durch Deine ausführlichen Beschreibungen wiederaufleben lässt.
    Auch wenn ich irgendwie das Gefühl habe, ich habe einen anderen Kuss gesehen 😉 aber vielleicht liegt es daran, dass ich ihn nur einmal gesehen habe……

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  10. I love your ability to communicate to me what my eyes have not seen. Thank you.

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  11. WOW! That’s all I can write. WOW!

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  12. Wow for me too. I would have loved to see this play. But I really think I would have stopped breathing and not have blinked once. It would have been so overwhelming. Reading your description, thoughts, feelings of RA in person and in performance conveys to me that he is as magnificent as I have imagined. I am so glad you attended and am excitedly anticipating more of your illuminating posts. I keep re-reading this post and ‘the kiss’ post over and over.

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    • I was told by an expert friend that if you’re crushed on anyone in the play you can’t see itjust once because the first time your brain won’t let go of “it’s him! it’s him!” That wasn’t entirely true for me but it was good to have the knowledge that I would be able to see it more than once and thus give in to what was on my attention at any given second.

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      • I really believe I would have been a crushing viewer as your friend says, for sure. I would have been riveted to RA. I would need a couple viewings to probably even comprehend he was actually speaking, let alone see any of the players, even though I had studied the play (many years ago in high school). The night would have been a complete blur to me….maybe somewhat like he described on twitter today how the Stage Door is like for him … him being immersed in John Proctor and I would have been immersed in RA.

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  13. Re: tearing my eyes away from him – I didn’t even try. There was so little time I could spend watching him, being in the same space with him, that to look anywhere else felt like throwing something precious and once-in-a-lifetime away.

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    • I was seated next to someone who told me she had the same feeling — she was going to focus on him primarily because of the missed opportunity otherwise.

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  14. A beautiful review! And I feel that when Richard Armitage immerses himself in a character, everything else falls away–distractions, time constraints, annoyances, remembering to breathe (as you alluded to), etc. And for you and others to be able to experience RA in a live performance? Sighhhhhh! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us! Hugs!

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  15. Devasting….devasted….words I wish I’d used as they express the feeling I was left with after my second (and last viewing) so perfectly.

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  16. Your descriptions are amazing. Richard’s acting gift is almost impossible to articulate, but you do it!
    I’m living in hope that The Crucible in some form will be carried on after this month’s final ‘curtain’ at The Old Vic.
    If it truly is dead in two weeks, your collective posts will have to stand as a definite ‘next to the real thing’ experience.
    Your London trip will end up enriching countless fans. Thank you!

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    • well who knows — because one impression that I have after seeing it is that filming this would be extremely difficult. So even if they do film it — there are still rumors in that direction — it will still be different from what I saw, just as what I saw is different from what others saw.

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  17. withdrawing pleas to make dvd …do NOT want to break law !!! OPPS SORRY ……

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  18. […] People say he owns the stage. The power that pours off of him. This simply was not something I would have predicted from his screen presence, as much as it alone changed my life. Armitage — devastates. […]

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  19. […] himself the consummate master of his own physical expression and corporeal presence. Seen live, the charismatic energy that flows off of the actor, which most of us have only glimpsed on screen as a magnetism that prevents us from looking away, […]

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  20. […] I saw the play seven times and I commented in detail on every single performance, starting with August 26th. I wrote about how seeing his artistry changed my life. […]

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